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THE ABOLITIONIST movement lasted for a century in Western Europe and the Americas and resulted in ending the transatlantic slave trade and the practice of humans owning other humans. Slavery has a long past as an integral part of ancient civilizations. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe abandoned slavery for serfdom. But in 1442, Portuguese ships brought African slaves first to Europe, but then mainly to the Americas to work in the plantations, in what were regarded as unhealthy climates. The Europeans brought Africans to the New World, thinking it was similar to the slaves’ native West Africa. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, traders brought about 15 million slaves to the Americas.

For an Enlightenment thinker of the 18th century, the idea of ...

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